The Early Horn

The Early Horn
Ursula Paludan Monberg
Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen
Hyperion CDA68289. 78’32

One of the most astonishing developments in musical instrument technology came with the elevation of the horn from its role a rather elemental rallying call to 17th-century aristocratic huntsmen to a sophisticated member of 18th-century court orchestras and chamber groups. One of the key aspects of this development was the technique of hand-stopping to alter the pitch. This was combined with the division of the 15 or so feet of tubing of the wound hunting horn into two parts, the smaller changeable crock allowing for changes of key. This recording explores the wide range of music composed for the natural horn during the 18th-century. Continue reading

Conversed Monologue

Conversed Monologue
Fantasticus XI
Resonus RES10166. 70’08

Graun: Concerto for Viola da Gamba in C; Leclair: Concerto for Violin in G minor; WF Bach: Concerto for Harpsichord in F major.

I have been impressed with previous CDs by Fantasticus (see here) and am equally impressed by their latest project, now expanded from their usual trio into a small baroque orchestra with the name of Fantasticus XL. All three members of the original Fantasticus take solo roles in the featured concertos – and what fascinating pieces they are. One of the joys of this recording is that all three pieces are little-known, but well worth discovering.

When the CD starts, it is difficult to appreciate that this is the start of a viola da gamba Concerto, such is the bravado and élan of Graun’s opening phrase. Continue reading

Bach & Entourage: Sonatas for Violin and Basso continuo

Bach & Entourage
Johannes Pramsohler, violin, Philippe Grisvard, harpsichord
Audax ADX13703. 65’11

Sonatas for Violin and Basso continuo by Bach, Pisendel, Graun and Krebs

I have been watching violinist Johannes Pramsohler make his mark in the world of period violin playing over the past few years, and this CD shows that his growing reputation is well deserved. This well-chosen programme of relatively unknown Sonatas from the Bach circle, is a telling reminder that although his later fame came from his organ playing, Bach’s early childhood was spent learning the violin from his violinist father. As Pramsohler’s notes point out, it was only when the 10 year-old Bach, now orphaned, moved into his organ-playing elder brother’s house, that he started to focus on the organ. But he kept his father’s violin, his only inheritance, all his life. Although only one work is definitely by Bach, with two possibly Bach’s, Bach is suffused throughout the other works, by Pisendel, Graun and Krebs, representing the extraordinary flowering of musical talent in 18th century Weimar, Leipzig and Dresden.  The Graun and Krebs works are world premiere recordings, taking us into a slightly later musical period.  The CD ends with Bach’s extraordinary Fugue in g (BWV 1026).   Continue reading